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SIXTEEN

As a reward for the successful theft of Francis X. Kingsbury's files, Molly McNamara allowed Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue to keep the rented Cutlass for a few days.

On the evening of July 22, they drove down Old Cutler Road, where many of Miami's wealthiest citizens lived. The homes were large and comfortable-looking, and set back impressively from the tree-shaded road. Danny Pogue couldn't get over the size of the yards, the tall old pines and colorful tropical shrubbery; it was beautiful, yet intimidating.

"They got those Spanish bayonets under the windows," he reported. "God, I hate them things." Wicked needles on the end of every stalk absolute murder, even with gloves.

Bud Schwartz said, "Don't sweat it, we'll find us a back door."

"For sure they got alarms."

"Yeah."

"And a goddamn dog, too."

"Probably so," said Bud Schwartz, thinking: Already the guy's a nervous wreck.

"You ever done a house like this?"

"Sure." Bud Schwartz was lying. Mansions, that's what these were, just like the ones on "Miami Vice." The bandage on his bad hand was damp with perspiration. Hunched over the steering wheel, he thought: Thank God for the rental at least we got a car that'll move.

To cut the tension, he said: "Ten bucks it's a Dobie."

"No way," said Danny Pogue. "I say Rottweiler, that's the dog nowadays."

"For the Yuppies, sure, but not this guy. I'm betting on a Dobie."

Danny Pogue fingered a pimple on his neck. "Okay, but give me ten on the side."

"For what?"

"Give me ten on the color." Danny Pogue slugged him softly on the shoulder. "Black or brown?"

Bud Schwartz said, "I'll give you ten if it's brown."

"Deal."

"You're a sucker. Nobody in this neighborhood's got a brown Doberman."

"We'll see," said Danny Pogue. He pointed as they passed a crimson Porsche convertible parked on a cobbler drive. A beautiful dark-haired girl, all of seventeen, was washing the sports car under a quartet of halogen spotlights. The girl wore a dazzling green bikini and round reflector sunglasses. The sun had been down for two hours.

Danny Pogue clapped his hands. "Jesus, you see that?"

"Yeah, hosing down her Targa. And here we are in the middle of a drought." Bud Schwartz braked softly to peer at the name on a cypress mailbox. "Danny, what's that house number? I can't see it from here."

"Four-oh-seven."

"Good. We're almost there."

"I was wondering," said Danny Pogue.

"Yeah, what else is new."

"Do I get twenty bucks if it's a brown Rottweiler?"

"They don't come in brown," said Bud Schwartz. "I thought you knew."

It wasn't a Doberman pinscher or a Rottweiler.

"Maybe some type of weasel," whispered Danny Pogue. "Except it's got a collar on it."

They were kneeling in the shadow of a sea-grape tree. "One of them beady-eyed dogs from Asia," said Bud Schwartz, "or maybe it's Africa." Dozing under the electric bug lamp, the animal showed no reaction to the sizzle and zap of dying moths.

Carefully Bud Schwartz inserted four Tylenol No. 3 tablets into a ten-ounce patty of prime ground sirloin. With his good hand he lobbed the meat over the fence. It landed with a wet slap on the patio near the pool. The weasel-dog lifted its head, barked once sharply and got up.

Danny Pogue said, "That's the ugliest goddamn thing I ever saw."

"Like you're Mel Gibson, right?"

"No, but just look."

The dog found the hamburger and gulped it in two bites. When its front legs began to wobble, Danny Pogue said, "Jesus, what'd you use?"

"About a hundred milligrams of codeine."

Soon the animal lay down, snuffling into a stupor. Bud Schwartz hopped the fence and helped his crutch-less partner across. The two burglars crab-walked along a low cherry hedge until they reached the house. Through a glass door they saw that all the kitchen lights were on; in fact, lamps glowed in every window. Bud Schwartz heard himself take a short breath; he was acting against every instinct, every fundamental rule of the trade. Never ever break into an occupied dwelling especially an occupied dwelling protected by four thousand dollars' worth of electronic burglar alarm.

Bud Schwartz knew the screens would be wired, so busting the windows was out of the question. He knew he couldn't jimmy the sliding door because that would trip the contact, also setting off the alarm. The best hope was cutting the glass door in such a way that it wouldn't trigger the noise detectors; he could see one of the matchbook-sized boxes mounted on a roof beam in the kitchen. Its tiny blue eye winked insidiously at him.

"What's the plan?" asked Danny Pogue.

Bud Schwartz took the glass cutter out of his pocket and showed it to his partner, who hadn't the faintest idea what it was. Bud Schwartz got to his knees. "I'm going to cut a square," he said, "big enough to crawl through."

"Like hell." Danny Pogue was quite certain they would be arrested any moment.

Bud Schwartz dug the blades of the glass cutter into the door and pressed with the full strength of his good arm. The door began to slide on its rollers. "Damn," said Bud Schwartz. Cold air rushed from the house and put goose bumps on his arms.

Danny Pogue said: "Must not be locked."

The door coasted open. No bells or sirens went off. The only sound came from a television, probably upstairs.

They slipped into the house. Bud Schwartz's sneakers squeaked on the kitchen tile; hopping on one leg, Danny Pogue followed his partner through the living room, which was decorated hideously in black and red. The furniture was leather, the carpeting a deep stringy shag. On a phony brick wall over the fireplace hung a painting that was, by Bud Schwartz's astonished calculation, larger than life-sized. The subject of the painting was a nude blond with a Pepsodent smile and breasts the size of soccer balls. She wore a yellow visored cap, and held a flagstick over her shoulder. A small brass plate announced the title of the work: "My Nineteenth Hole."

It was unspeakably crude, even to two men who had spent most of their adult lives in redneck bars and minimum-security prisons. Bud Schwartz gazed at the painting and said: "I'll bet it's the wife."

"No way," said Danny Pogue. He couldn't imagine being married to somebody who would do such a thing.

As they moved cautiously through the house, Bud Schwartz couldn't help but notice there wasn't much worth stealing, even if they'd wanted to. Oh, the stuff was expensive enough, but tacky as hell. A Waterford armadillo how could millionaires have such lousy taste?

The burglars followed the sound of the television down a hallway toward a bedroom. Bud Schwartz had never been so jittery. What if the asshole has a gun? This had been Danny Pogue's question, and for once Bud Schwartz couldn't answer. The asshole probably did have a gun; it was Miami, after all. Probably something in a semi-automatic, a Mini-14 or a MAC-11. Christ, there's a pleasant thought. Ten, fifteen rounds a second. Hardly time to piss in your pants.

Danny Pogue's whiny breathing seemed to fill the hallway. Bud Schwartz glared, held a finger to his lips. The door to the bedroom was wide open; somebody was switching the channels on the television. Momentously, Bud Schwartz smoothed his hair; Danny Pogue did the same. Bud Schwartz nodded and motioned with an index finger; Danny Pogue gave a constipated nod in return.

When they stepped into the room, they saw the blond woman from the golf painting. She was lying naked on the bed; two peach-colored pillows were tucked under her head, and the remote control was propped on her golden belly. At the sight of the burglars, the woman covered her chest. Excitedly she tried to speak no sounds emerged, though her jaws moved vigorously, as if she were chewing a wad of bubble gum.

Inanely, Bud Schwartz said, "Don't be afraid."

The woman forced out a low guttural cry that lasted several seconds. She sounded like a wildcat in labor.

"Enough a that," said Danny Pogue tensely.

Suddenly a door opened and a porky man in powder-blue boxer shorts stepped out of the bathroom. He was short and jowly, with skin like yellow lard. Tattooed on his left forearm was a striking tableau: Minnie Mouse performing oral sex on Mickey Mouse. At least that's what it looked like to Danny Pogue and Bud Schwartz, who couldn't help but stare. Mickey was wearing his sorcerer's hat from Fantasia, and appeared to be whistling a happy tune.

Danny Pogue said, "That'd make a great T-shirt."

With fierce reddish eyes, the man in the boxer shorts studied the two intruders.

"Honey!" cried the woman on the bed.

The man scowled impatiently. "Well, shit, get it over with. Take, you know, whatever the hell."

Bud Schwartz said, "We didn't mean to scare you, Mr. Kingsbury."

"Don't fucking flatter yourself. And, Penny, watch it with that goddamn thing!"

Still recumbent, the naked Mrs. Kingsbury now was aiming a small chrome-plated pistol at Danny Pogue's midsection.

"I knew it," muttered Bud Schwartz. He hated the thought of getting shot twice in the same week, especially by women. This one must've had it under the damn pillows, or maybe in the sheets.

Danny Pogue's lips were quivering, as if he were about to cry. He held out his arms beseechingly.

Quickly Bud Schwartz said: "We're not here to rob you. We're here to talk business."

Kingsbury hooked his nubby thumbs into the elastic waistband of his underpants. "Make me laugh," he said. "Break into my house like a couple of putzes."

"We're pros," said Bud Schwartz.

Kingsbury cackled, snapping the elastic. "Two hands, babe," he reminded his wife.

Danny Pogue said, "Bud, make her drop it!"

"It's only a .25," said Kingsbury. "She's been out to the range what? a half-dozen times. Got the nerves for it, apparently."

Bud Schwartz tried to keep his voice level and calm. He said to Kingsbury: "Your office got hit yesterday, right?"

"As a matter of fact, yeah."

"You're missing some files."

The naked Mrs. Kingsbury said, "Frankie, you didn't tell me." Her arms were impressively steady with the gun.

Kingsbury took his hands out of his underwear and folded them in a superior way across his breasts, which were larger than those of a few women whom Danny Pogue had known.

"Not exactly the Brink's job," Kingsbury remarked.

"Well, we got your damn files," said Bud Schwartz.

"That was you? Bullshit."

"Maybe you need some proof. Maybe you need to see some credit-card slips."

Kingsbury hesitated. "Selling them back, is that the idea?"

Some genius businessman, thought Bud Schwartz. The guy was a bum, a con. You could tell right away.

"Tell your wife to drop the piece."

"Penny, you heard the man."

"And tell her to go lock herself in the John."

"What?"

The wife said, "Frankie, I don't like this." Carefully she placed the gun on the nightstand next to a bottle of Lavoris mouthwash. A tremor of relief passed through Danny Pogue, starting at the shoulders. He hopped across the room and sat down on the corner of the bed.

"It's better if she's in the john," Bud Schwartz said to Francis X. Kingsbury. "Or maybe you don't care."

Kingsbury gnawed his upper lip. He was thinking about the files, and what was in them.

His wife wrapped herself in a sheet. "Frank?"

"Do what he said," Kingsbury told her. "Take a magazine, something. A book if you can find one."

"Fuck you," said Penny Kingsbury. On her way to the bathroom, she waved a copy of GQ in his face.

"At Doral is where I met her. Selling golf shoes."

"How nice," said Bud Schwartz.

"Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Kite, I'm not kidding. Penny's customers." Kingsbury had put on a red bathrobe and turned up the television, in case his wife was at the door trying to eavesdrop. Bud Schwartz lifted the handgun from the nightstand and slipped it into his pocket; the cold weight of the thing in his pants, so close to his privates, made him shudder. God, how he hated guns.

Kingsbury said, "The painting in the big room you guys get a look at it?"

"Yeah, boy," answered Danny Pogue.

"We did that up on the Biltmore. Number seven or ten, I can't remember. Some par three. Anyway, I had to lease the whole fucking course for a day, that's how long it took. Must've been two hundred guys standing around, staring at her boobs. Penny didn't mind, she's proud of 'em."

"And who wouldn't be," said Bud Schwartz, tight as a knot. "Can we get to it, please? We got plenty to talk about."

Francis X. Kingsbury said, Tm trying to remember. You got the Ramex Global file. Jersey Premium. What else?"

"You know what else."

Kingsbury nodded. "Start with the American Express. Give me a number."

Bud Schwartz sat down in a high-backed colonial chair. From memory he gave Kingsbury an inventory: "We got a diamond tennis necklace in New York, earrings in Chicago. Yeah, and an emerald stickpin in Nassau of all places, for like three grand." He motioned to Danny Pogue, who hobbled over to Mrs. Kingsbury's dresser and began to look through the boxes.

Dispiritedly, Kingsbury said, "Forget it, you won't find it there."

"So who got it all?"

"Friends. It's not important."

"Not to us, maybe." Bud Schwartz nodded toward the bathroom. "I got a feeling your old lady might be interested."

Kingsbury lowered his voice. "The reason I use the credit card, hell, who carries that much cash?"

"Plus the insurance," said Danny Pogue, pawing through Mrs. Kingsbury's jewelry. "Stuff gets broke or stolen, they replace it, no questions. It's a new thing."

Great, Bud Schwartz thought; now he's doing commercials.

"There's some excellent shit here. Very nice." Danny Pogue held up a diamond solitaire and played it off the light. "I'm guessin" two carats."

"Try one-point-five," said Kingsbury.

"There were some dinners on your card," Bud Schwartz said. "And plane tickets, too. It's handy how they put it all together at the end of the year where you can check it."

Kingsbury asked him how much.

"Five grand," Bud Schwartz said, "and we won't say a word to the wife."

"The file, Jesus, I need it back."

"No problem. Now let's talk about serious money."

Kingsbury frowned. He pulled on the tip of his nose with a thumb and forefinger, as if he were straightening it.

Bud Schwartz said, "The Gotti file, Mr. King."

"Mother of Christ."

" 'Frankie, The Ferret, King.' That's what the indictment said."

"You got me by surprise," Kingsbury said.

Danny Pogue looked up from an opal bracelet he was admiring. "So who's this Gotti dude again? Some kinda gangster is what Bud said."

"How much?" said Kingsbury. He leaned forward and put his hands on his bare knees. "Don't make it, like...a game."

Bud Schwartz detected visceral fear in the man's voice; it gave him an unfamiliar feeling of power. On the other side of the bathroom door, Francis Kingsbury's wife shouted something about wanting to get out. Kingsbury ignored her.

"The banks that made the loans on Falcon Trace, do they know who you are?" Bud Schwartz affected a curious tone. "Do they know you're a government witness? A mob guy?"

Kingsbury didn't bother to reply.

"I imagine they gave you shitloads a money, Bud Schwartz went on, "and I imagine they could call it back."

Francis Kingsbury went to the bathroom door and told Penny to shut up and sit her sweet ass on the can. He turned back to the burglars and said: "So what's the number, the grand total? For Gotti, I mean."

Danny Pogue resisted the urge to enter the negotiation; expectantly he looked at his partner. Bud Schwartz smoothed his hair, pursed his mouth. He wanted to hear what kind of bullshit offer Kingsbury would make on his own.

"I'm trying to think what's fair."

"Give me a fucking number," said Kingsbury, "and I'll goddamn tell you if it's fair."

What the hell, thought Bud Schwartz. "Fifty grand," he said calmly. "And we toss in Ramex and the rest for free."

Excitedly Danny Pogue began excavating a new pimple.

Kingsbury eyed the men suspiciously. "Fifty, you said? As in five-oh?"

"Right." Bud Schwartz gave half a grin. "That's fifty to give back the Gotti file..."

"And?"

"Two hundred more to forget what was in it."

Kingsbury chuckled bitterly. "So I was wrong," he said. "You're not such a putz."


Danny Pogue was so overjoyed that he could barely control himself on the ride back to Molly's condominium. "We're gonna be rich," he said, pounding both hands on the upholstery. "You're a genius, man, that's what you are."

"It went good," Bud Schwartz agreed. Better than he had ever imagined. As he drove, he did the arithmetic in his head. Five thousand for the American Express file, fifty for the Gotti stuff, another two hundred in hush money...rich was the word for it. "Early retirement," he said to Danny Pogue. "No more damn b-and-e's."

"You don't think he'll call the cops?"

"That's the last place he'd call. Guy's a scammer, Danny."

They stopped at a U-Tote-Em and bought two six-packs of Coors and a box of jelly doughnuts. In the parking lot they rolled down the windows and turned up the radio and stuffed themselves in jubilation. It was an hour until curfew; if they weren't back by midnight, Molly had said, she would call the FBI and say her memory had returned.

"I bet she'll cut us some slack," said Danny Pogue, "if we're a little late."

"Maybe." Bud Schwartz opened the door and rolled an empty beer can under the car. He said, "I'm sure getting' tired of being her pet burglar."

"Well, then, let's go to a tittie bar and celebrate." Danny Pogue said he knew of a place where the girls danced naked on the tables, and let you grab their ankles for five bucks.

Bud Schwartz said not tonight. There would be no celebration until they broke free from the old lady. Tonight he would make a pitch for the rest of the ten grand that she'd promised. Surely they were square by now; Molly had been so thrilled by the contents of the Ramex file that she'd given him a hug. Then she'd gone out and had eight copies made. What more could she want of them?

Back on the road, Bud Schwartz said: "Remember, don't say a damn thing about what we done tonight."

"You told me a hundred times."

"Well, it'll screw up everything. I mean it, don't tell her where we been."

"No reason," said Danny Pogue. "It's got nothin' to do with the butterflies, right?"

"No, it sure does not."

Danny Pogue said he was hungry again, so they stopped to pick up some chicken nuggets. Again they ate in the parking lot, listening to a country station. Bud Schwartz had never before driven an automobile with a working clock, so he was surprised to glance at the dashboard of the Cutlass and find that it was half past twelve, and counting.

"Better roll," Danny Pogue said, "just in case."

"I got a better idea gimme a quarter." Bud Schwartz got out and walked to a pay telephone under a streetlight. He dialed the number of Molly McNamara's condominium and let it ring five minutes. He hung up, retrieved the quarter and dialed again. This time he let it ring twice as long.

In the car, speeding down U.S. 1, Danny Pogue said, "I can't believe she'd do it maybe she went someplace else. Maybe she left us a note."

Bud Schwartz gripped the wheel with both hands; the bullet wound was numb because he had forgotten about it. Escape was on his mind what if the old bitch had run to the feds? Worse, what if she'd found the Gotti file? What if she'd gone snooping through the bedroom and found it hidden between the mattress and the box spring, which in retrospect was probably not the cleverest place of concealment.

"Shit," he said, thinking of the bleak possibilities.

"Don't jump the gun," said Danny Pogue, for once the optimist.

They made it back to the condo in twenty-two minutes, parked the rental car and went upstairs. The door to Molly's apartment was unlocked. Bud Schwartz knocked twice anyway. "It's just us," he announced lightly, "Butch and Sundance."

When he went in, he saw that the place had been torn apart. "Oh Jesus," he said.

Danny Pogue pushed him with the crutch. "I can't fucking believe it," he said. "Somebody hit the place."

"No," said Bud Schwartz, "it's more than that."

The sofas had been slit, chairs broken, mirrors shattered. A ceramic Siamese cat had been smashed face-first through the big-screen television. While Danny Pogue hopscotched through the rubble, Bud Schwartz went directly to the bedroom, which also had been ransacked and vandalized. He reached under the mattress and found the Kingsbury files exactly where he had left them. Whoever did the place hadn't been looking very hard, if it all.

A hoarse shout came from the kitchen.

Bud Schwartz found Danny Pogue on his knees next to Molly McNamara. She lay on her back, with one leg folded crookedly under the other. Her housecoat, torn and stained with something dark, was bunched around her hips. Her face had been beaten to pulp; beads of blood glistened like holly berries in her snowy hair. Her eyes were closed and her lips were gray, but she was breathing raspy, irregular gulps.

Danny Pogue took Molly's wrist. "God Almighty," he said, voice quavering. "What who do we call?"

"Nobody." Bud Schwartz shook his head ruefully. "Don't you understand, we can't call nobody." He bent down and put his bandaged hand on Molly's forehead. "Who the hell would do this to an old lady?"

"I hope she don't die."

"Me, too," said Bud Schwartz. "Honest to God, this ain't right."


FIFTEEN | NativeTongue | SEVENTEEN